If I Could Change a Single Moment of the Past

clockIf I could change a single moment of the past, it wouldn’t be a moment of my life. The traumas and failures in my life have never been the result of a single moment but of life’s unfolding drama or mistaken assessments on my part. The single moments that did have an impact didn’t change my life, just gave me a few uncomfortable weeks or months, so it’s not worth the trouble to go back and redo those moments and put up with any ripples and upheavals that might result from such changes.

I would instead bestow this power to change a single moment on another, someone I’ve only talked to a few time, someone whose name I don’t even know.

At a local employee-owned grocery chain, I occasionally see an employee sitting by the door, giving us customers a friendly good-bye as we leave. Generally, these “sitters” are workers who have been injured and can’t stand all day, so this is a way of giving them a rest on the clock.

One such woman is radiantly beautiful, looking to be about twenty when in fact she is in her forties. A couple of years ago, her boss needed someone to move a heavy object, and since no one else was available, she volunteered. In that moment her life changed from one of a vibrant health to one of chronic back pain and doctors who can’t agree on treatment.

The last time I saw her, I didn’t stop to talk, merely said in passing, “I was hoping I’d never see you again.” Those words echoed in my mind as I crossed the parking lot, and I was appalled by what I had said. I meant, of course, I was hoping I wouldn’t see her at her post and that she finally was through with her ordeal. I might have let the remark go, but she is of a different race than I am, and I was afraid she’d take it as a racial slur if not a personal insult. So I went back to the store, but she and her chair were gone.

Yesterday I saw her again and finally got a chance to apologize. She said she knew what I meant and hadn’t taken offense. We talked for a while, and she mentioned that her grandmother’s funeral had been packed to overflowing. The woman had been active in the civil rights movement in Mississippi, was loved by all who met her, and since she lived to be 106, she had plenty of opportunity to meet people.

If the grandmother is anything like the woman I met, it’s no wonder she was so beloved. This woman’s smile is enough to brighten anyone’s day, even mine when I was in the worst phases of my grief. Although she is very sweet and kind, and not at all bitter, she is always aware that one single moment changed her life forever, and if it were ever possible, she’d go back and change it.

It is that moment of change that I would gift her with if I could.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

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I Am a One-Month Grief Survivor

I have survived my first month of grieving. I’m surprised it was so hard, and I’m surprised I survived it (at times my lungs stopped working and my heart felt as if it would burst with all the pain) but in the world of grief, a month isn’t much. Still, I’ve come a long way. I can look to the future, though I know the best way to deal with that future is to deal with each day as it comes — thinking of living the rest of my life without my mate makes me sick to my stomach.

And I have moments when I can stand outside my grief and see the process for what it is. Grief is an enormous undertaking (I hesitated using the word “undertaking” since it’s so close to “undertaker,” but it’s a good analogy because grief is, to a certain extent, facing the death of a part of you). Grief involves physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and in my case, geographical changes. Grief rocks you to the very depths of you being — a soul quake. Grief changes your sense of self, your sense of your place in the world. Grief affects your self-esteem. There is only one other experience of such immensity — falling in love.

I have come to realize hate is not the opposite of love, grief is. Grief encompasses all the wild emotions, the life-changing experiences, the immensity of love, but in reverse. Falling in love with the man I was to spend decades with and grieving for him are the bookends of our life —  not my life, my life will continue, though changed —  but our life, the life we shared.

I wonder sometimes if I’m going to change out of all recognition. I’ve gone through so many life-changing experiences in the past year that I no longer know who I am. And if one doesn’t know who they are, how can they write? Because isn’t writing is essentially an expression of who we are? If, as L.V. Gaudet rebuts, writing is more of a discovery of our inner selves, then when I get back to writing, the writing itself will change me.

Will he recognize me if we ever meet again? Will he be proud of what I become? I guess that is part of the future, not of this day. And right now, this day is all I can handle.